The Black Angels - Death Song

by Rob Taylor Rating:8 Release Date:2017-04-28

The Black Angels are best when occupying the lysergic idiom made infamous by The 13th Floor Elevators. The darker arts always suited The Black Angels, rather than their tentative stabs at mainstream success. The monumental blues riffs and shuddersome drones. They’re always better when they get nasty. Even better when their nastiness is subsumed within a gigantic tune, like it is on ‘I’d Kill For Her’ a clamorous but tuneful rock ‘n’ roll song that is as fun, as it is indisputably evil. What’s more, it deviates a little from the typical reverb and vocal processing for which The Black Angels are so renowned. This rocks out like nothing else this year. The drummer almost loses an arm for your musical pleasure. A great track almost worth the admission price alone.

The impending sense that all hell could break loose from the gentle start to 'Comanche Moon', reminded me of The Cult’s ‘She Sells Sanctuary’. The melodic strumming gives away to some loud and very crunchy guitar ostinato backed by a drummer who refuses to be drowned out. Some whooshing sound effects ultimately make uncomfortable background to a lyric which spoke of little hope .. “So tired of all this misfortune / been wandering for most of our lives / they’ve stolen the land they’ve been roaming / I swear it’s the end of the line” It seems appropriate that the song is transported by the end into an abyss from which there’s no return. 

‘Hunt Me Down’ is a ‘Black Dog’ styled stomper, a good reminder that the band is more than a polychromatic throw-back to 1968. Not that they ever extricate themselves completely from the trippier elements of 1960s psychedelia. 

The middle of the album frustratingly loses momentum, but things are rectified on ‘I Dreamt’ a frightening song appearing to be about obsession, and the loss of emotional privacy. The narrative inhabits the song, which is nervy and agitated. A bad trip definitely. 

I see you and me strung out and delusional” Maas sings on “Medicine” and the lamentations of the secondary vocal seem to reinforce the rather ill-natured narrative. The keyboards summon the kind of hurdy-gurdy menace Manzurek executed on his keyboards with The Doors.  

Brilliant closer “Life Song” is the modern day psychedelic rock answer to Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. The protagonist, instead of stepping through the door into space, and floating in a most perculiar way, finds his doom travelling upside down into a world of the unknown, with no voice with which to explain his impending death (or hopelessness if you’re diggin’ the metaphor). Same desperation but less fantasy, and more symptomatic of a world of political and social uncertainty.

Best album since Phosphene Dream

 

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